DAREarts Foundation Inc. for Children

DAREarts Foundation Inc. for Children

October 27, 2005 09:10 ET

DareArts-Helping Native Teens A New Passion: Three Thousand Kids Wage War On Third-World Conditions for Aboriginal Kids

PALGRAVE, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 27, 2005) -

On the one hand there were leeches, mosquitoes and a lack of plumbing. But there were also new friends, beautiful countryside and the thrill of connecting with teens from a sometimes-ignored segment of society.

It was just last July that Lori Chapman, a local life strategies specialist, traveled to a remote Native reserve to interact with the youth there -- whom she terms the "forgotten victims" -- and make recommendations on how they can be helped. Ms. Chapman traveled with Marilyn Field, president of the DareArts Foundation, an organization designed to empower children through arts education.

As they realized first hand, a lot can happen in a weekend. The trip, which took place the weekend of July 8, evoked a gauntlet of emotions for Ms. Chapman, 52, and Ms. Field, 54, who said they now have a new passion -- helping Native youths, many who are troubled and have nothing to look forward to.

"I'll never not appreciate what I have ever again," Ms. Chapman said. "The problem is that help for Native teens is in short supply."

"They're no different with their problems than our Toronto kids are. But the Native teens have no support," she said.

The community is Kashechewan on the west coast of James Bay, nearly 1,000 kilometers north of Toronto.

The pair worked with teens at an educational survival skills camp on a nearby island. The camp was one of three summer camps in Ontario's far north run by the Canadian Armed forces as a training ground for teenaged Junior Rangers. DareArts was asked to be part of the team by the lieutenant-governor of Ontario, James Bartleman, who is a member of the Mnjikaning First Nation.

Ms. Chapman has been in the social service field for more than 25 years and has years of youth-related training. She has specialized in teens in transition and has worked with teens and their families in and out of the criminal justice system. Ms.. Field was a school teacher for over 10 years before she founded DareArts Foundation as a way to reach more youth with the power of an arts education. DareArts is now in its 10th year, influencing thousands of children yearly.

Reserve One of Desolation

One of her first impressions when they arrived at Kashechewan was just how desolate the town was and yet how beautiful the natural surroundings.

"In the houses the windows were all boarded up because the kids kept breaking them," Ms.. Chapman said. "I was very naive. I don't think I could've been prepared for the devastation and barrenness."

Some of the struggles the teens dealt with, they found, were boredom, drug and alcohol abuse -- it's a no-alcohol reserve, but bootleggers are rampant -- and a lack of education.

Most of the kids there drop out of school by grade 8.

"They have no ambition," Ms. Chapman said.

The role models the kids choose to emulate are many of the same performers teens here look up to -- many of whom are anything but positive.

One of the ways Ms. Chapman and Ms. Field broke down the barriers between them and the distrustful teens was by introducing the arts, especially visual arts and music. They asked the teens to draw 'Children For Peace' cards to help raise money for tsunami relief, and it wasn't long before the teens were working wholeheartedly and chatting easily. They were naturally keen on drawing, painting, reading and learning.

Accommodations were primitive, to say the least, with no electricity or plumbing. The sun beat down on the group mercilessly each day, forcing them to apply multiple coats of bug spray and sunscreen hourly.

But before they knew it, it was time to leave.

Was it hard leaving? "Yes and no. On the one hand, it was 35 degrees C every day. Even our bottled water was 35 degrees C. I felt so filthy and disgusting. On the other hand, I could've spent weeks with these people," Ms. Chapman said.

Ms. Chapman summed up her feelings about the teens' situation in a comprehensive report. Some of her suggestions included keeping the school open after hours with supervised activities, enforcing discipline and involving parents in the process.

Ongoing drug, alcohol and substance abuse training is also necessary, she said. Although some connections were made with teens, Ms. Chapman and Ms. Field looked upon the situation realistically.

"We did what we could in a few days but you can't undo hundreds of years in a weekend," explaining their desire to help Native teens now consumes much free time.

Both Ms. Chapman and Ms. Field plan to return to Kashechewan, hopefully sooner than later. Winter will be a planning stage to meet with the Armed Forces leaders and Mr. Bartleman and decide where to go from here.

"We've always worked with inner city kids. That's our passion. Now we're going to take that passion and make a difference," they said.

This past month, 3,188 local children and teens 'dared' to take on responsibility as caring Canadians and help aboriginal kids in the far north - including Kashechewan - wage war on isolation and third-world conditions.

"We are ordinary children from ordinary schools but we know that, even though we are just specks in this big world, we can make a difference to children who are suffering. We paint greeting cards to sell and, with the proceeds, help children who are suffering from wars in their country. We want those children to know that we are thinking of them."

For the 3rd year, the 'Children For Peace' project - an original card-making program - was initiated by DareArts' founder, Marilyn Field, in Canada. It is an international children's charity dedicated to promoting peace as 'Children For Peace'.

DareArts encouraged local schools to adopt the Children for Peace card project for their students. Children, their teachers and local artists joined forces to help other kids. Up from 2,000 last year, an impressive 3,000 local youth each made an original card and donated it for sale.

"I am excited to create another card this year. I promise it will be even better than last year!" enthused one Grade 7 student from St. Peter School. Proceeds from the sale of the kids' cards this year will assist 'at risk' children living in Canada's own far north, where they are fighting their own war of isolation. The conditions in the children's fly-in-only communities have been described by our Canadian military as "parallel to those in the Congo".

Typical of the caring of the Orangeville community is a teacher from Hyland Heights Elementary. "It's terrific to see the progress that DareArts is making in the far north. It gives the children creating the cards a sense of how valuable their artwork and creativity is."

DareArts founder, Marilyn Field, expressed, "We are so proud of our own local youth! By their creative actions, they are becoming responsible citizens who know how to put their caring into affirmative action." Our local youth deserve our support and encouragement. With hard work and creativity, they are becoming a strong and impressive force to spread the message of peace and to raise funds to help children in both Canada and abroad," said Ms. Field.

Orangeville area schools involved include: Caledon East; Centennial Hylands; Centre Dufferin District; Credit Meadows; East Garafraxa; Grand Valley and District; Hyland Heights; Mayfield; Montgomery Village; Parkinson; Princess Elizabeth; Princess Margaret; R.H. Lagerquist; St. Andrew; St. Benedict; St. Peter and St. Stephen.

Cards are available by donation by calling DareArts at 1-888-540-2787 or www.darearts.com The kids hope to raise $10,000 with a suggested donation of $5 per card. DareArts' Canadian Charitable Number is 88691 7764 RR0002.

Backgrounder: By creating an original card, each child becomes part of the international movement `Children with love, Children for Peace' that has been recognised by the Nobel Peace Prize committee. Numerous heads of state, the pope and United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan also support the movement. In its 15th year, one million children participate yearly around the world, including, through DareArts, 10,000 Canadian youth. In 2001, DareArts Founder, Marilyn Field, conducted an international choir of 'Children For Peace' from twenty-two countries at the Nobel Peace Prize's 100th anniversary concert.

In cooperation with NATO peace keeping forces, the children's cards have, in the past, bought three special ambulances for the children in Kosovo, rebuilt schools in Bosnia and supplied 1,000 school bags for kids in Afghanistan. Canadian kids have also helped Canadian Olympic wrestler, Daniel Igali, to build a school in his native village of Eniwari, Nigeria.

For more information, interviews or photos call:

Lori Chapman
The Chapman Centre
184 Main St. E. Suite 2
Milton, ON L9T 1N8

Marilyn Field,
M.S.M., DareArts Foundation
3042 Concession 3 Adjala, RR1,
Palgrave, ON L0N 1P0

Contact Information

  • The Chapman Centre
    Lori Chapman
    M.S.M., DareArts Foundation
    Marilyn Field
    3042 Concession 3 Adjala, RR1,
    Palgrave, ON L0N 1P0